By September 7, 2009

Canon EOS 500D review

When you talk about digital cameras I think almost everyone will have heard of Canon. Launched earlier this years the EOS 500D joins Canon’s DSLR range at the lower end, one step above the 1000D.


The Canon EOS 500D body


I’m a big fan of Canon cameras and I’ve had several models over the years from the 300D up to the 50D I use now and pretty much everything in between. I know it’s simply a case of what you get used to but I simply prefer Canon over the other makes out there. Just my personal opinion but having a pretty decent selection of Canon lenses already is definitely a factor!

I managed to get my hands on the EOS 500D a few weeks ago and have been road testing it ever since. I’ve used it for taking photos of some of the products that we have in for review at the moment and I’ll post some sample shots further on in the review.


What’s in the box?

My review unit was part of a kit and came with the 18-55USM IS Lens. I’ve limited the review to the body itself though. In the main box you’ll find:

  • The Canon EOS 500D camera body
  • LP-E5 lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Body cap
  • Shoulder strap
  • USB cable
  • Video cable
  • CD-ROMs featuring EOS Digital Solution software and documentation
  • 227 page camera manual


Take a look at my earlier Canon EOS 500D unboxing video for more.


Canon EOS 500D Specification:

  • 15.1Mp CMOS sensor
  • Canon EF-S Lens Mount
  • Crop Factor 1.6x
  • 9 Point Auto Focus
  • 3.4 fps burst mode (11 RAW and unlimited JPG)
  • ISO 100-3200 (expandable to 12,800)
  • 1/4000 – 30secs shutter speed
  • Live View Mode
  • 3.0" LCD 920k dot LCD Monitor
  • HD Video shooting modes (1080p @ 20fps and 720p @ 30fps)
  • SDHC Memory Cards
  • Weight: 480g

These are just the headline features. A full run-down of the specification can be found on the Canon website.



Looking at the 500D for the first time it’s difficult to distinguish it from its predecessor, the 450D and its 1000D little brother. The controls and menus are immediately familiar.

The build of the 500D, although slightly better than the 1000D perhaps is largely plastic and, for me coming from the more expensive 50D, feels just a little too plastic and a little too light. The 50D is more reassuringly heavy due to its aluminium body. That said, don’t be put off, the 500D is definitely one of the better made DSLR’s in the price bracket.

So taking a look around the camera body:

The 500D is a fairly typical looking DSLR body. However it’s quite compact so if like me you have large hands you might find the grip a little small I can only wrap two middle fingers around the grip leaving my index finger to press the shutter release button and my little finger hanging rather awkwardly off the bottom.



The back panel is quite busy but dominated by the 3" LCD Screen which is a hi-res 920k dots affair. Around that you have the menu buttons, viewfinder, and a variety of other controls for navigating the menu and display and changing camera settings.

The Canon EOS 500D back panel

Canon EOS 500D back panel


On the top of the camera you’ll find the hotshoe for adding a flash as well as the built-in pop-up flash. Next to that is the mode dial which sets the main shooting settings from full-auto to full-manual. There’s also the on/off switch that’s easily in reach of your thumb and the all-important shutter release button.

Canon EOS 500D top view

Canon EOS 500D top view


Not much to see on the bottom of the camera but this is where the battery is inserted and a standard tripod 1/4" screw thread can be found.

Canon EOS 500D bottom view

Canon EOS 500D bottom view


The Mini-HDMI and USB/AV out connectors can be found on the left side of the body under a rubber cover. There’s also a socket to plug in an external shutter release here.

Canon EOS 500D left side

Canon EOS 500D left side


To the right there’s a door covering the SD memory card slot. This supports SD and SDHC memory cards.

Canon EOS 500D right side

Canon EOS 500D right side



As I mentioned already, the 500D looks very much like the 450D the it replaced and many will ask whether the 500D is worth the upgrade. The things that set the 500D apart are the 15.1MP CMOS sensor (which is the same as on the 50D), the DIGIC4 processor and probably most notably the ability to shoot HD Video footage.

HD Video shooting from a DSRL is a relatively new thing and at the moment only the 500D and its bigger brother the 5D mkII are capable of this. Other manufactures have have models capable of it and this certainly seems like a trend that is set to continue. As I record a lot of video this is one feature that I was keen to try. I’ll come to that in a moment.

The 500D has a decent ISO range from 100-3200 ISO, up from the 450D’s limit of just 1600. There’s also a H2 setting that has an ISO equivalent of 12,800. As you can imagine though, going that high does result in some pretty noisy looking images. If you look at the image below you’ll see what I mean. On the left we have a 100% crop of a child’s toy at 100 ISO and on the left the same toy at 12,800 ISO.

100 ISO left and 12,800 ISO right

100 ISO left and 12,800 ISO right


The other thing I noticed about the 500D right away is how much quieter the shutter release was than the 450D. This is perhaps important for wildlife photography of if you are using the camera to take pictures whilst in a crowd as you are less likely to disturb those around you.

The LCD screen on the rear is the same size as the 450D, a generous 3" but the resolution has been drastically increased to 920,000 dots. The difference here is amazing a makes image preview/review much more practical and gives a better representation of the captured image.

As with other Canon cameras at within the price range the sensor isn’t full frame with a 1.6x crop factor. This means that the focal length written on your lenses must be multiplied by 1.6 so the supplied 18-55mm lens becomes a 28.8-88mm looking at a 35mm equivalent. This is still plenty wide enough for most applications and can be beneficial in some respects as you get a little more ‘reach’ at the long end of the lens. The 500D is compatible with all EF and EF-S lenses – and there are 100’s to choose from!

Canon have added a new Integrated Cleaning System to this model. What this does is that every time you turn the camera on or off the sensor is ultrasonicaly shaken to try to dislodge any dust or debris that may have found its way inside.

So we come to the main thing that I wanted to test, the HD Video recording. As a mentioned earlier. I record a lot of video footage whether it’s unboxing videos for the website or videos of my daughter I’m very often behind the camera. For a long time video cameras have been able to take still shots but even the best HD camcorders produce, at best, average looking still photos. So when DSLR cameras started to feature the ability to record HD video footage this sounded like the way to go.

Typically SLR lenses are much larger and, perhaps, higher quality than those you would find on even the best consumer camcorders. I suppose this is highlighted by the fact that SLR camera lenses, even the cheaper ones, cost more than a camcorder. DSLR’s also have pretty large CMOS sensors so I thought that the results of this technological marriage would be impressive.

Although the 500D boasts the ability to record both 1080p and 720p HD footage you are 1080p recording is limited to just 20fps which is somewhat lower than the normal 30fps. However 720p footage can be recorded at 30fps. For the majority of work that I do 720p is more than adequate anyway.

It was my plan to record a few unboxing videos with the 500D to see how they compared to the Sanyo Xacti HD1000 that I use at the moment. This is where I became a little disappointed with this camera. Let me explain.

When you set the camera to video shooting mode you are instructed to obtain a focus lock before you begin recording. Not really a big problem in itself as this simply means holding down the focus button for a few seconds. The issue is, once you start recording video the camera doesn’t auto focus again on its own. If something moves in or out of focus or you want to focus on a different subject while recording you have to then press the focus button again. This may not seem like a big problem but when you press the focus button the lens goes kinda crazy for a few seconds while it hunts for a new focus, all of which is recorded. If the subject then moves again you have to press the focus button again. You can’t simply keep your finger on the focus button. This is quite annoying and means that for me the camera isn’t suitable for video recording where much of what I record moves back a forward almost continuously. A real shame considering how good the recorded video is otherwise.

The other down side to video recording is that there’s no socket for an external mic. There is of course a built-in mic but it’s not perfect by any means, it only faces forwards and is to one side of the lens where I seemed to keep putting my fingers!

Check out the sample HD video below.

The Live View system on the 500D is excellent. It features three modes; AF Quick which uses the 9 AF points, AF Live, which uses contract detection, and AF Face Detect which also uses contrast detection but can also recognise faces.  AF Live is probably the one that you’ll find yourself using most as the AF Quick interrupts the live display while it seeks the focus.

In sequential shooting mode the 500D can snap at a healthy 3.4 fps and can grab 11 consecutive frames is shooting RAW or unlimited frames if shooting JPG. This is a pretty reasonably shooting rate and is roughly half that of the 50D due to the 500D having 2 DIGIC4 channels against the 50D’s 4.

I don’t know why Canon have opted for SDHC memory cards over Compact Flash on their newer EOS cameras. Perhaps this is a cost-saving exercise but for someone that has a nice selection of CF cards it’s a little annoying to have to splash out on new memory cards. Something to consider perhaps if you make the move from another Canon DSLR to the 500D.


Sample Images

The images below are direct from the camera with no editing, just resized for upload. Camera was set to full auto for the sample shots.

IMG_0908 IMG_0910



100% centre crop


You can download a sample HD video using this link. In this video I explain and demonstrate the auto focus limitations when recording video.



The Canon EOS 500D is an extremely capable digital SLR camera. It has some impressive features that suit both new photographers and more seasoned prosumers alike.

Picture quality is hard to fault. There are certain thing ‘missing’ in my opinion. Remote flash trigger socket is just one.

If you have the 450D and are considering the upgrade I’d question whether or not it’s worth it. If you are looking for HD video then buy an HD camcorder instead!

For the price I would personally opt for the 50D which is now not much more expensive. The 50D has better build quality and is that big larger, plus it has a better frame rate and better AF. If you are just starting out then you may wish to consider the 450D which can still be purchased. The only compelling reason to purchase the 500D is for the HD video, however, for reasons I’ve already mentioned I don’t think that the HD video is enough to tip the scales in favour of the 500D. Buy the 50D!


Review by: Matt

Posted in: Reviews

About the Author:

More than 20 years in the IT industry. Blogging with a passion and thirst for new technology since 2005.
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